Girls Water Polo Beats Woodside to Claim First PAL Title in Ten Years

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On Wednesday evening, the girls water polo team beat the Woodside Wildcats by a score of 7-3 and earned the title of PAL Champions for the first time in ten years.

The team defeated Woodside earlier in the season, but due to a loss to Carlmont, they had to beat them again to win the title. Coach Lauren Lesyna said, “This was huge for us. It’s been our focus the entire season to beat Woodside.” 

Senior Yaritza Elizondo said, “They have really fast players, and they are our biggest rivals. They’re the strongest team we play against, every time.”

The stands were packed with parents and students who gathered to watch this critical game. The M-A parents were especially energetic, sporting full body bear onesies and loudly cheering throughout the game. Elizondo said, “We were very nervous at the beginning because this game was basically championships—whoever won the game won the league.”

Lesyna described the team’s ability to stay cool despite the immense pressure as a “testament to our mentality, focus, and development.”

The game began with senior Abby Ko winning the first sprint, allowing sophomore Scarlett Shenk, the team’s set, to score the first point of the game. 

This energy allowed the Bears to keep going strong as sophomore Sabine Polly and Shenk both scored soon after. M-A’s strong defense kept Woodside in check and enabled the Bears to finish off the first quarter up 3-0.

The Bears continued their forceful streak in the second quarter, scoring two more goals by Shenk with an assist from Polly. Woodside managed to score their first goal of the game, lobbing the ball into the top corner of the cage, just above junior goalie Lexi Nelson’s reach. Ko and Elizondo ran a hard press against the Wildcats who began rapidly attacking M-A’s goal. 

Tensions began to rise in the third quarter as Woodside began to push back against the 5-1 score. The set began with Woodside’s sprinter gaining possession of the ball which allowed Woodside to score and begin a streak. Nelson was unable to block their shots as the Wildcats continued to target the top left corner of the cage, an extremely difficult spot to reach. 

Elizondo said, “We were very nervous at that point because they had been making all their goals. That also reflected that we were tired because we had been working so hard.”

Woodside’s aggressive play on defense drove their attempted comeback and led to multiple ejections throughout the game.

In the final quarter, M-A completely shut down Woodside’s offense through a tightening of their defense which was a major focus of the team through the season. Lesyna said, “We really wanted to focus on our defense. We have a really great offense, but we wanted to make sure they were not scoring goals.”

Nelson had an outstanding performance in the fourth quarter, blocking several hard-hitting balls and lunging across the net, as well as using herself as a barrier. 

Sophomore Molly Gray scored the seventh point of the game. For the last possession of the game, Nelson came out of the goal and became the seventh field player, attempting a shot within the last seven seconds of the game. When the final buzzer sounded, the scoreboard showed a score of 7-3, a significant win by M-A over Woodside.

M-A had won both the game and the title of PAL Champions, a victory the team had not achieved since 2013. The team cherished this success, collecting in a huddle directly afterwards, proud their effort and hard work had paid off.

Reflecting on the game, Shenk said, “The things we talked about were really implemented in this game; we worked as a team, not as individuals. We definitely pushed our game.”

Becca is a sophomore at M-A in her first year of journalism. She enjoys writing about events impacting the M-A community and hopes to write more pop-culture based articles and opinion pieces. In her free time, she enjoys baking and spending time with friends.

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